Long time comic book readers would say he’s the World War II vet turned S.H.I.E.L.D. director created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby whose life was prolonged by the fantastic Infinity Formula. Those more familiar with Marvel Studios’ big screen super hero films will tell you he’s the head of S.H.I.E.L.D played by Samuel L. Jackson who spearheaded the “Avengers Initiative.”
Marvel Comics, on the other hand, has already started bridging the gap between the two versions. In 2012, their “Battle Scars” miniseries saw both incarnations of the characters exist side-by-side as an army ranger named Marcus Johnson was immersed into the world of espionage when he disovered his birth name was Nick Fury, Jr. — making his father the legendary S.H.I.E.L.D. director. Nick Fury, Sr. also underwent a major status quo shift following the events of “Original Sin,” becoming a being known as The Unseen.
This September, the “Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” one-shot by writer David Walker and artist Scott Hepburn honors the agency’s milestone by teaming up father and son for an all-new adventure.
â€¨CBR News spoke with Walker about the challenge of telling a story that honors both incarnations of Nick Fury, his takes on the father and son characters, and the importance and evolution of kinetic motion in spy action stories.
CBR News: You’re not only celebrating the titular organization’s milestone in “Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary,” you’re also examining the history of Nick Fury as a whole by telling a story that unites the younger Nick Fury, who bears a strong resemblance to his big screen counterpart played by Samuel L. Jackson, and his father, Marvel’s original Nick Fury. Is that accurate?
David Walker: Yes, and when they asked me to pitch a Nick Fury story I wasn’t sure which Nick Fury they wanted because there really are two Nick Furys. For someone who is an old school reader, like myself, we all know the traditional Nick Fury who was the leader of the Howling Commandoes and all that. Then there’s a ton of people out there who know the new Nick Fury, the one from the movies. So the key was can I bring these two together?
Which elements of your protagonists do you want to explore?
Because it’s the 50th anniversary and in the Marvel 616 Universe they’re father and son, a lot of what I wanted to explore is who was Nick Fury in 1965 when S.H.I.E.L.D. was first formed? How was he different then versus the character we see now, especially coming out of all these things he’s done really in the last 10 years? Most recently there was his involvement in the “Original Sin” story line, but there’s also “Secret Invasion” and the “Secret War” story from 2004-2005.
So he’s had his hand in so many things, but I wanted to explore how much he’s changed from an ideological stand point. I wanted to look at how much that job would change any person.
â€¨That was part of it, and then the other part was what would it be like to go back and meet your dad 30 years before you were even conceived? I thought that was kind of interesting too. Because I think we all in some ways would like to meet our parents before we were born. It’s that “Back to the Future” sort of fantasy, I guess.
Does that mean your story involves time travel, or is this more a story that involves the present day Nick Fury, Sr. who, in the aftermath of “Original Sin,” became a being known as The Unseen?
[Laughs] All I can say is we’re going to see a lot of Nick Fury, both of them.
Fair enough. Let’s talk a little bit more about your sense of the current Nick Fury. We don’t get a lot of his perspective since he’s mostly a guest-star or a member of team books like “Secret Avengers.” It seems like he very quickly transitioned from being an Army Ranger dealing with these huge revelations about who his parents were to an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Yeah, and there’s only so much you can touch upon in a one-shot. That was part of what I wanted to touch upon though; this concept of this guy who wasn’t an everyday sort of guy to begin with since he was a Ranger, but he’s been thrust into this completely different world. He’s in not just a world of war, but a world of super beings, and demigods, and all this sort of stuff.
How much of that we can address in 20 pages remains to be seen, but there’s a lot of room for growth with that character. It’s not necessarily me pitching this, but I would love to see Marvel do something more with him as a solo player instead of a team player because I do think there’s a lot to resolve. It can’t be easy to wake up one morning and find out you’re the son of Nick Fury. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Right. One of the things I loved about “Battle Scars,” the series that introduced him, was that he was positioned as this sort of everyman soldier thrust into the world of super spies and super heroes. Since then it feels like there’s been more of an effort to make him like his dad than a guy just getting used to this world.
Yeah, and more importantly not make him like his dad make him like his own man. I think that’s what’s really interesting. Because does anybody really want to turn into their parents? Sometimes it’s the best thing you can be and other times it’s the worst thing you can be. So you really have to ask yourself, “What would happen if you grew up to be like your dad and your dad was Nick Fury?” Because it seemed like whenever he showed up in a Marvel comic everybody was like, “Aw man! It’s Fury!” They’re not happy to see him. It’s like, “Is this a Life Model Decoy? Or is it the real thing? Let’s find out by shooting it.”
[Laughs] Can you talk at all about the dynamic between father and son in your story, or would that be tipping your hand?
I think that would be giving too much away because that’s really part of what’s driving the story. Let’s let people buy it and read it and then they can ruminate over it. They can perhaps ask me questions afterwards.
Since this is a story that involves father-son spies, we can guess it will be an espionage tale. Since spy stories come in so many flavors, is “Fury” more James Bond/Jason Bourne or more John le Carre?
It’s more of a Jason Bourne/James Bond sort of thing. It’s very rough and tumble; like boom! Boom! Boom! It happens really fast so these guys have to think on their feet a lot and be as fast with their fists as they are with their wits.
What’s the scale of the threat the Furys are facing in your story?
On the surface it appears to be a very, very big threat. That’s part of the mystery; them trying to ascertain how big the threat is and how to respond to it. Whose gut instincts are right? And whose are wrong? Because when you’re in a situation like that sometimes you just have to work with your gut feeling, but when you’re working with someone who doesn’t know you it’s like, “Okay is this your gut feeling? Or just really bad indigestion?” So it is as much about the threat as it is about these two guys getting a feel for each other.
We’ve talked about your protagonists and what they’re facing, but what can you tell us about some of the supporting characters in your “Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” special? Does Fury’s buddy Cheese AKA Phil Coulson make an appearance?
I’m not going to say who the supporting characters are that are in it, but there are some supporting characters that people will be really surprised to see. And I will say that none of them are Life Model Decoys. They’re all the real deal.
Let’s move to the work being done by your collaborator, artist Scott Hepburn. He’s drawn “Star Wars” books for Dark Horse in addition to some high profile characters for both Marvel and DC. What are you excited about what he’s doing on “Fury”?
I think he’s got a really great style. I don’t know if he’s going to adjust his style in any capacity to evoke certain eras of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was familiar with his work, but I didn’t realize it. Then when he was assigned to the book I was like, “Oh wow! This guy’s work is really cool.”
He brings a sense of fun to it. He’s got a sort of cartoony style that I’m a really big fan of. I haven’t seen any artwork yet, but I’m really looking forward to it, especially his action sequences. I feel when some artists compose their action sequences there’s not much flow to it, there isn’t much energy. But the stuff of Scott’s that I’ve seen really has a sense of fluidity and movement. Plus he makes some great choices in terms of how he composes his individual panels and the panels within a scene.
â€¨When you’re writing you hope that the artist will bring some more to what you’ve written. So they can take it to the next level. At least that’s how I feel about it. So looking at the stuff Scott’s done I’m really excited to see how he interprets what I’ve written and brings it to visual life. I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.
Sounds like he has a firm grasp on the kinetic sense of motion that’s often necessary for a spy action story.
Yeah, and it’s interesting talking about spy action stories because I just recently started watching all the Bond movies again in order. So I was watching “Doctor No” and when that came out in 1962 that was like this action packed thriller! Then you compare that to “Skyfall” or “Casino Royale” and there’s like three fights in “Doctor No” that all last like a collective minute and a half. There’s like half a car chase. [Laughs] So it’s interesting in terms of film making to see how this energy and movement was captured. I think the Bourne movies really did it.
A lot of times in fight sequences the camera stands still and it’s all in the editing, but there’s a lot of movement in those films, especially when Paul Greengrass took over the [“Bourne”] franchise and started directing the films. You also see that in the newer Bond movies, and I think Scott’s work has that feel to it. It actually feels like there is a sense of motion and movement. I love that. So that’s why I’m excited to see how he interprets what I’m doing.
I’m excited to be part of this book, but it’s interesting because I’m old enough and I’ve been reading comics long enough that I never imagined a time when the 50th anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D. would really be on anybody’s radar other than hardcore comic fans. So when it got announced that I was doing this thing so many of my friends were like, “Oh my god! You’re writing a S.H.I.E.L.D. book!” They’re not people who read comics either, but they all watch “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” or have all seen the “Avengers” movies. They all know who Sam Jackson is as Nick Fury.
It’s really interesting to me as somebody who’s been reading comics since the ’70s to see how this organization and this character, especially Nick Fury, has entered into the public consciousness. As a writer, I’m trying to find that balance between what people think of the organization and the man, given their familiarity with them through television and film, and what people like myself who are long time comic readers think and feel, and have come to expect. Bridging that gap was really interesting for me, because I’m able to say, “Oh yeah, I remember when nobody knew who Nick Fury was unless you read a comic.” Or maybe they knew him from the David Hasslehoff movie, but we don’t really count that.
[Laughs] You’re best known in comics for your work on Dynamite’s fantastic “Shaft” series. Soon though you’ll be writing “Cyborg” for DC, and this isn’t your first project for Marvel. You penned the recent Blade/Howard the Duck short in “Secret Wars: Battleworld” #2. What’s it like working with Marvel so far?
So far it’s been great. They’ve been really good and easy to work with. The fact that they let me do a Blade versus Howard the Duck story says it all, because I never in a million years thought anyone would say yes to that. In fact when I pitched it, it was like number four on my list of “Battleworld” stories because I thought they would never say yes to this, but they did! So they made a young man’s dreams come true even though I’m not really a young man anymore. [Laughs]
What do you find most interesting about their shared universe and characters?
What isn’t interesting about their universe and characters? [Laughs] This is the stuff I grew up with. I grew up reading comics, and the shared universe concept is an all bets are off sort of thing. That was one of the things that really intrigued me when they asked me to pitch some stuff; that concept of there are only a few rules.
While we’ve touched on some of your comic work, we didn’t discuss the fact that you’re also a filmmaker, pop culture essayist and prose novelist. For fans who might be hearing your name for the first time with “Fury,” what other projects would you suggest they check out?
IDW just put out a graphic novel that I wrote called “The Army of Doctor Moreau,” which is really different than anything else I’ve written. It’s sort of a pseudo sequel to H.G. Wells’ “Island of Doctor Moreau.” It builds off that original premise. Then I also have my first novel, which is a YA novel called “Super Justice Force” that is set in a world of super heroes but there’s no pictures in it. I’m currently working on the sequel to that.
â€¨Those are the two biggest things. There’s a bunch of other stuff, but after a while it starts to sound like I’m bragging. Then the pressure becomes too high. [Laughs] So I like to downplay what I’m doing.
Marvel’s “Fury: SHIELD 50th Anniversary” one-shot is scheduled for release in September.
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